Injury bug takes big bites

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

Calgary Roughnecks head coach Chris Hall agreed it's not a bad idea when the notion of using a giant white board was proposed to try and keep track of all the roster changes necessitated by injuries this season.

"Guys are in, out, in, out," laughed Hall. "It's getting hard to keep track."

In the three seasons since they joined the National Lacrosse League, the Riggers have avoided being badly bitten by the injury bug, which helped them to their first NLL championship last season.

This year, however, has been a different story.

Calgary, which meets the Toronto Rock tonight at the ACC (5:30 p.m., Ch. 30), started the year without rookie and co-defender of the year Taylor Wray, who has since returned from a broken leg.

The Riggers then lost starting defenders Andy Ogilvie and Devan Wray, along with forward Matt Green, to likely season-ending knee injuries. Transition forward Kyle Neufeld, who had been out since the start of the year with a knee injury, was placed on the active roster only last week.

All-star transition defender Jesse Phillips missed last weekend's loss to Arizona and won't dress for tonight's tilt against the Rock. Forward Jason Wulder, who has missed only one game since the team's inception and is second to Kaleb Toth in games played with the Riggers, may miss both games this weekend with bruised ribs and tendinitis in his right leg.

Defender Travis Gillespie, who was taken to the hospital last weekend in Arizona with an abscessed tonsil, is out indefinitely while he waits to get his tonsils removed.

These injuries -- and others -- have led to the revolving door Hall has manned most of the season.

"It's been difficult," said Hall. "The injury bug has really bit us this year. It's tough, for sure.

"The good news is we have almost four weeks until we play a playoff game and hopefully guys can get healthy. The bad news is we've got to try and work our way through the next four games and not go in the tank. We need at least a couple of wins to try and get ourselves a home playoff game. It's a difficult task ahead of us, certainly not ideal."

The Roughnecks, who clinched a playoff berth last month, have good depth on their roster but, given the parity in the league, it's tough to stay on top if you can't floor your best lineup on a regular basis, said Phillips.

"That's the key to be a strong team, having your starting 16 in every game," said Phillips. "The guys who have stepped in, though, have done a good job. We have good depth on this team but we're starting to get to the end of that depth, I think."

Wulder, the team's elder statesman with 11 seasons under his belt, said the ongoing ailments have definitely put a strain on the defending champs.

"We've lost major core guys," said Wulder. "That's never easy. But the guys we have waiting in the wings have stepped up, so I'm not worried. We just have to make sure we get the bumps and bruises out of our system before the playoffs start."

First, the Riggers have to contend with the streaking Rock, who at 8-3 tops the East Division. Toronto is averaging 13.9 goals per game and feature noted attackers Colin Doyle and Sherwood Park product Blaine Manning.

Still, Toronto head coach Terry Sanderson -- perhaps avoiding giving the Roughnecks any locker-room ammunition -- said his team won't take Calgary lightly despite its injury woes.

"Absolutely not," answered Sanderson. "Look at the guys they still have playing. You have to be prepared for these guys. I know they're going to be prepared for us and, with the names they have, there's no surprises. We know they can play. They're in first place ... Let's not kid ourselves. I know they're a pretty good team."


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